The Legendary Nissan 300ZX SMZ: A Performance Icon Reimagined
In the mid-1990s, New Zealand-born racer Steve Millen ruled the Nissan racing scene with his incredible skills behind the wheel. Millen’s achievements, including being crowned the champion of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1994, solidified his place as one of the most formidable drivers of his time. But Millen’s influence wasn’t limited to the track; he also made his mark on the street with the creation of a truly exceptional sports car: the SMZ.
The base model for Millen’s masterpiece was the Z32-generation Nissan 300ZX, already renowned for its potent twin-turbo V6 engine. However, Millen wanted to take it to new heights and partnered with his own company, Stillen, to transform the 300ZX into something even more remarkable. The result was the SMZ, a performance legend that pushed boundaries and turned heads wherever it went.
Only between 50 and 60 SMZs were ever built, making them highly coveted by enthusiasts and collectors alike. These limited-production vehicles were far from ordinary. Millen and his team reworked every aspect of the car to enhance its performance and driving experience. More boost, improved braking, a stiffer suspension, and an aero kit were just a few of the modifications that elevated the SMZ to a whole new level.
What set the SMZ apart from other aftermarket tuned cars was its official affiliation with Nissan. This wasn’t a hastily tuned special; it was a performance upgrade developed with Nissan’s approval and support. The 300ZX twin-turbo models were shipped directly from Nissan to Stillen’s shop in Costa Mesta, California, where the modifications and bodywork were expertly executed. Once completed, the cars were sent to specially selected Nissan dealerships, where they were sold with a full new-car warranty, giving buyers peace of mind and confidence in their purchase.
The SMZ wasn’t just about raw power; it was a masterpiece of engineering. The new boost controller, improved air intake, and exhaust flow contributed to a claimed peak output of 365 horsepower. In a performance test conducted by Car and Driver in 1995, the SMZ blazed from 0 to 60 mph in just 5.3 seconds and achieved an impressive 0.92 g on the skidpad. Even by today’s standards, these figures are nothing short of impressive.
Now, one of these rare gems is up for auction on Bring A Trailer. This particular SMZ, designated 96-102, is a 1996 model with only 41,000 miles on the odometer. It has been meticulously maintained, with recent replacements of spark plugs, coil packs, and the clutch. Originally sold by a New Mexico Nissan dealership, this SMZ had a sticker price of $66,371 in 1996, equivalent to over $130,000 in today’s currency.
The auction listing includes a plethora of extra goodies for the lucky buyer. Spare wheels, an SMZ-branded car cover and apparel, and even a copy of the Car and Driver issue featuring the SMZ road test are all part of the package. Owning this SMZ isn’t just about having a rare and powerful sports car; it’s about owning a piece of automotive history.
As the auction draws to a close on October 19, automotive enthusiasts eagerly await the opportunity to add this SMZ to their collection. Its combination of breathtaking performance, rarity, and rich heritage make it a highly sought-after vehicle. Whether you’re attending a local cars and coffee event or cruising down the street, the SMZ will undoubtedly turn heads and spark conversations.
In conclusion, the Nissan 300ZX SMZ is the epitome of a performance icon. With its origins rooted in the hands of a racing champion and its development backed by Nissan itself, the SMZ represents the ultimate blend of power, design, and exclusivity. Its limited production numbers and rich history ensure that it will remain a highly desirable and collectible car for generations to come. So, if you have the chance to own this legendary piece of automotive brilliance, don’t hesitate to seize the opportunity.